Right and Wrong

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  4 : 1-8
Subject: Morality; Christian Living; Bible
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave

Right and Wrong

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8:  Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. (NKJV)

In this passage, Paul calls upon Christians to live a godly life and to abstain from immoral activity. To reject this, we are told, is not to reject man but to reject God. This begs an answer to a serious question: Is there such a thing as an absolute moral right or good? Are people correct who say? "You can’t legislate morality." Certainly you are aware that a majority of Americans no longer believe that there is such a thing as an absolute truth or an absolute right or  wrong. Although most Americans say they want guidance from God or the Bible, few believe in moral absolutes.

Studies have shown that the average person in America, and probably most places in the world, no longer believe in the idea of sin, at least not in most basic moral issues. Polls have shown that people reject the idea of an absolute right and wrong.

Even if you haven’t read the latest polls, surely you have observed modern American behavior enough to know that we have lost our way and have wandered into a moral morass, a cesspool of corrupt conduct. About 40 years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger, one-time head of the Army Psychiatric Division, wrote a book entitled, "What Ever Happened To Sin?" The good doctor warned way back then that we were headed for trouble because we no longer viewed aberrant behavior as sinful. Modern thinkers had begun to explain every evil activity as simply a flaw of culture or as a socially induced malfeasance. Menninger sought to set off an alarm, a message of caution. He was saying that what we really needed was the church altar where people could repent, be forgiven and get a new start. The book was widely read, but people only gave it a nodding approval. The facts in it were not sufficiently inculcated into daily life. The result is that we have continued to slide down a slippery slope of sinful self-indulgence.

The attitude of the average person today is, 'I will do what I please.' Like the people in the days of the Judges, in the Old Testament times, we have a generation about which it may be said, "Each man does what he thinks is right in his own eyes." And, what exactly has this led to? A generation of Americans who will kill each other over a parking space at the mall. A generation of children who are shooting each other in our communities – as young as six years old. A generation savaged by sexually transmitted diseases. A generation of people who are pulling scams to bilk honest people out of their money at a rate so rapid that the government is adding manpower to investigate and stop the robbery.

Often, that which appears to be insignificant may in fact be critical to a person or a society. For example, several years ago, a stunt man named Bobby Leach went over Niagara Falls in a specially designed steel drum and lived to tell about it. He did suffer some minor injuries, but he survived because he recognized the tremendous dangers involved in the feat and did everything he could do to protect himself from harm. A few years after his plunge over the falls he was going down a street in New Zealand and he slipped on an orange peeling, fell, and fractured his leg. He was taken to the hospital where he eventually died from complications developed from his fall. Bobby Leach found more danger on the sidewalk than he did in a steel drum going over the great Niagara Falls. Mr. Leach's experience illustrates an important spiritual lesson as well, that the greatest threats to our lives are things we usually consider small or insignificant.

So, let's think about this issue from a biblical and divine perspective.

I. The Absolute Moral Authority

We have to begin at the beginning – with absolute moral authority. Now I can prove to you that everyone believes in an absolute moral authority and that there are unquestionable rights and wrongs. Even those who answer surveys stating that they do not believe in absolute moral authority – meaning a set of rights and wrongs which transcend society and culture - actually do believe in them.

Imagine with me that a man who denies absolutes when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. Someone comes into his home and robs him and when he arrives at home he finds his belongings taken and the remains of what was not taken scattered everywhere. He is outraged. He calls the police and demands a full investigation. He wants the crooks caught and prosecuted. Why? He believes that what they did was wrong? Purely and simply, the act was wrong, wrong, wrong! Now, who told him it was wrong for a person to take his possessions? The police? No, he knew it was wrong before they got there. It was in his heart. He knew that it is wrong for someone to take something that belongs to another. He believes in an absolute moral authority.

Let's go a step further, since someone might argue that my illustration is a legal, criminal matter and that there is an authority for those issues - namely the criminal law and law enforcement. So, look at another example.

Let's say that the same man is trying to get a job but someone else applying for the job tells the employer false and damaging things about him. The man in this case would immediately be angered and furious at the person who did such a thing. Why would he be furious about this action? Because he knows in his heart that lying to an employer to keep him from getting a job is a moral wrong.

Or, let me go one step further. Let's say that the same man is watching a ball game and sees the umpire make a bad call. He leaps to his feet and complains vehemently because the umpire did not call the play the way it should have been called. Why is he so angry? Because he says the call was unfair. He is acknowledging that there are rights and wrongs, even if it is only in a ballgame.

In fact, this same man would acknowledge many rights and wrongs which are inside his heart and mind. Now, here is the question. Where did these laws (these rights and wrongs in the man's mind and heart) come from? How does he know that it is wrong to lie? How does he know that it is wrong to steal things which belong to other people? After all, if we are just biological accidents, if the survival of the fittest is the rule of the earth, more power to the one who can take your things from you and get away with it. Right? No - it is wrong and we know it. The man in this illustration knows that the survival of the fittest doesn't work in human society and you know that as well.

Yes, there are absolutes. There is an absolute moral authority and that authority is God Himself. Now, in the passage before us, Paul is reminding Christians that we are not to engage in sexual sin. He tells us not to live in lust. What is lust? Lust by definition is the desire to satisfy God-given needs and desires in an ungodly manner. It does not matter how many people commit this sin, this breaking of God’s moral law, for the fact that a large number of people are doing something wrong does not diminish one iota the fact regarding its unlawful nature. Some might say that something cannot be wrong if everyone does it. How foolish is that statement! That is a childish argument. If a child tells his mom that he only did a wrong deed because some other boys did it, does that satisfy his mother? Does she say? "Oh, okay, since the others did it I remove my complaint." Absolutely not - it does not satisfy her at all.

So we begin by acknowledging that there is an absolute authority over human life. We all know it. We all act out of that knowledge with our attitudes and actions every day.

There are moral laws in this universe God made, just as there are physical laws. We could have a vote tomorrow on the nature of gravity and every American could vote to repeal that law, but it would not change the fact that jumping off a ten story building without a parachute is going to kill you - graveyard dead! The same is true for those things that are morally right and morally wrong. All the votes in the world don’t change the facts.

Now, note another fact ...

II. Absolute Authority Rests in the One Who Has It

Authority rests in the one who has it, the one to whom it has been given. Take a coach of a sports team. The coach can take a player out and put another in the game simply because he is the coach and he has the power to do so. The player may not like it, but he can’t change it. Why? Because the coach is the final authority. You can carry this same thought over to your employer. When one has been given authority, he or she may act on that authority.

Who is the ultimate authority in this world? Let see what the Bible says about that. Jesus is the last, absolute authority and is stated as such in Matthew 28:18: 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." We are to recognize the authority of the Lord in our lives in all matters.

I read an amusing story some time ago about a minister who received a call from a church that offered him a salary four times what he was then receiving. Being a devout man, he spent much time in prayer trying to discern what God wanted him to do. One day a friend met the minister's son on the street and asked, "Do you know what your dad is going to do?"  The boy's answer was, "Well, Dad's praying, but Mom's packing!"

Now that is a joke, of course, but how often do we all act just like that. Since God is in charge, then we must live under His authority.

Next, look at the fact that ...

III. Violating Absolute Authority will bring Negative Results

Look at Matthew 7:24-29. Here we note that Jesus speaks as one having authority and He tells the people that those who hear His words and do not put them into practice are building on sand that will one day wash from beneath the structure they have erected. This is a message of authority that has a serious warning.

Now some people think that personal sin does not affect others. Some say, "As long as I am not hurting someone else, it is no one’s business what I do." What a misguided statement that is, since sin does not exist in a vacuum. My sin hurts you and your sins hurts me.

Paul uses the example in our text of sexual sin. He states that such sin is a violation to others. God is wronged. Society is wronged. We ourselves are wronged. Sin does that, for it brings about dire results and beyond that it will be punished at some point in the future. God says so. You may think you have gotten by, but be sure your sin will find you out.

Jesus explained the principle of violating God-given laws in the parable regarding a house built on sand. You can build a house of sand, but when the rain comes it will topple and collapse. Our lives are like that. God has created moral laws and if you build on something other than that you can be sure a great collapse is coming. One must be sure that the foundation of life is fixed on a solid rock. If you build on sand, it will be washed out from under you when the rains (God's judgment) come. If you build on the ROCK - Jesus Christ - the rain of judgment cannot affect you eternally, for He has already taken the punishment for your sin at the cross. However, be sure that you aware of the fact that present sin, even in the life of a Christian, has present-day results. For example, no sin can wash away the foundation of my eternal life as a believer; however, if I act in immorality toward my spouse, I can certainly end up with the foundation washed out from under my home (marriage). You can apply this principle to all moral issues - what the Bible calls SIN.

Ecclesiastes 9:18 states that the sin of one sinner destroys much good. There was sin in the camp when Achan took the accursed thing at Jericho. Following that sin, the entire people of Israel suffered a defeat in battle. The poet put it like this:

"There is sin the camp, there is treason today,

Is it in me, is it in me?

There is cause in our ranks for defeat and delay.

Is it, O Lord, in me?

Something of garments, or something of gold,

Something in young, or something in old,

Some reason why God does His blessings withhold,

Is it, O Lord, in me?

Is in me, is in me,

Is it, O Lord, in me?"

Could it be that God withholds His blessings from us because some of us are unwilling to repent and confess our sins? It was true then and it is true now.

Note next that ...

IV. Absolute Authority Violated is an Affront to Authority

In Proverbs 1:7 we read, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

Modern society claims to worship no god, but they bow to money, sex and power. They have simply replaced the pagan ideas of the past with a humanism that seeks to place self on the throne. We are trusting science and human ingenuity, but that doesn't stop things like the current Coronavirus from sweeping our world. We claim freedom from God, but tremble every time we are told that a meteorite is streaking out of the sky toward a close encounter with earth. Simply put, we are not nearly as in charge as we think we are, and if we don't admit it the One in charge may well choose to prove it to us.

Listen! When we claim moral freedom to do as we wish, we are doing what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Our actions are an affront to God because they actually deify us - in other words, we seek to become a god. That is exactly what Satan told Even in the Garden of Eden. She was told that eating of forbidden fruit would make her a god - what a temptation. It is exactly the same today.

Lastly, consider this...

V. There is Hope for those who have Violated God’s Authority

A. Salvation

First, all of us have violated God's authority - we are all sinners. Yet God loves us and calls us to repent and turn to Him by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ. There is hope for those who have never turned to God, there is the hope in the salvation He offers.

Look at Romans 10:9-10: "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

We cannot repent unless we acknowledge the authority of Christ. This text tells us that one must acknowledge Jesus as Lord, not just as Savior, in order to be saved. Jesus was raised from the dead and given all authority. When we trust Him as our Savior, we must also trust Him as our Lord. This means submission to Him in all things.

B. Sanctification

Paul mentions sanctification in our text. Sanctification means for a Christian to be set apart fully and completely for God. The desire of Paul in the text to the Thessalonians was that they come under the authority of Christ so completely that they live differently than those in the world. That is what God is saying to us in this text and all through the Bible.

  • We are not to think the way the world thinks.
  • We are not act the way the world acts.
  • We are not live the way the world lives.

What is needed in the church is a new recognition of the authority of our Lord, and a new commitment to live totally for Him. We need to turn from our sins. We need to be cleansed afresh. We need to say what the songwriter said, I’ll say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes, to your will and to your way!'